Vodafone users rage at ongoing 3G woes

Vodafone users rage at ongoing 3G woes

Summary: Vodafone Hutchison Australia's 3G network continues to struggle under the weight of its customers despite it having claimed that a software fix would resolve issues at the end of last month.

TOPICS: Telcos

Vodafone Hutchison Australia's 3G network continues to struggle under the weight of its customers despite it having claimed that a software fix would resolve issues at the end of last month.

Phone rage

(334/365 this is a phoooonne!!! image by Lazurite, CC BY-ND 2.0)

The company recently announced that it plans to upgrade its 850MHz network, which would involve 1500 new sites — 400 of which should now be live. But that hasn't stopped VHA customers taking to both Twitter and broadband enthusiast website Whirlpool over the last month in droves to voice their complaints about the network's poor coverage and slow 3G download speeds. The latest Whirlpool forum thread has reached over 90 pages.

Last month, Vodafone social media employee Kirsty responded to initial criticism of the network's performance on Whirlpool, stating the issue was software-related.

"We want to let you know that we've uncovered a software fault that is affecting data throughput on our network. We're now working to correct the fault, and we expect to have more stable software installed on the network before the end of November," she said. "Once the new software is installed, we'll be putting extra capacity into the network to better support your 3G data usage."

However, the end of November has come and gone and customers are still suffering from outages, blackspots and slow 3G connections. The company yesterday was still informing customers on its Twitter account that there were "known issues" in Sydney.

Users in Melbourne were also experiencing similar issues, with one Twitter user advising others against signing up with the telco this morning.

"Word to the wise: avoid the #Vodafone Australia network. Has been congested for months, now not working in Melbourne CBD. Useless. Pass it on," he tweeted.

Dan Gee from Sydney, a Vodafone customer since 2001, had up until recently been pleased with the service and coverage offered by VHA, but recent issues with the network and the way the telco has handled his complaint has forced him to look to alternative carriers.

"I had just assumed that [the poor coverage] was in part where I lived at the time — in a valley in a heavily wooded area, and the rest of the family had occasional connection issues too. It was when in Melbourne at the end of October with two friends also on Vodafone (on my recommendation) and we were trying to check emails, Twitter and look up maps and restaurants and other touristy things [when] we all realised that something wasn't right."

In the middle of November, Gee moved to Granville and found it was nearly impossible to get coverage.

"Trying to get anything done with the phone is just impossible."

Gee said that the support he received on Twitter from the telco was helpful, but said they would only tell him there were "no known issues" and redirect him to call the Vodafone support hotline.

Getting in contact with Vodafone's telephone support isn't as quick as a tweet, however. A number of customers have informed ZDNet Australia that the current wait on Vodafone's technical support line ranges up to 90 minutes. One operator told a customer that there were 400 people in the queue at one point. Gee said that the minimum turnaround time he experienced was half an hour.

"And because I don't trust my mobile, this is done blocking up my office phone at work," he said. "The first phone call was vaguely offensive [telling me to] turn it off, turn it on, you'll need to reset all your phone's basic settings."

Gee was told by the operator to reset all his iPhone personal settings because certain apps can affect network connectivity but that did not solve the issues. No suggestions put forward by Vodafone eased his problems and Gee said he would be taking the issue to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman at the close of business on Wednesday.

"I've always been pleased with their service and coverage, so was more than happy to recommend their service to friends when they were looking to get an iPhone contract with a service provider. They kind of all hate me for that now," he said. "I definitely won't be recommending them to anyone else, and I'll be seeking ways to exit my own contract as soon as my current issues are resolved, or not."

Sydney PR agency director Vuki Vujasinovic only recently signed a 24-month contract with the telco but found it impossible to get coverage in Newtown when he moved there three months ago.

"3G reception has become shocking, but now worst of all, I can't even take most calls. I am constantly receiving messages from Vodafone telling me I have new voicemail, but the phone hadn't even rung," he said. "I'm missing out on vital business calls because the reception in Newtown is non-existent at times."

Vujasinovic said when he complained to Vodafone he was told the company could only guarantee coverage in the house at which he registered his contract in.

"My pointing out that it is a 'mobile' phone [and] I need to use it in places other than the home it was registered in, fell on deaf ears," he added. "It's gotten particularly worse recently and it has become virtually impossible to run my business with my phone, so I'm going to try and have my contract cut short and move to a network that I know has better reception in my area."

It's gotten particularly worse recently and it has become virtually impossible to run my business with my phone, so I'm going to try and have my contract cut short and move to a network that I know has better reception in my area.

Vuki Vujasinovic

Elissa Freeman, director of policy and campaigns with the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), said her organisation had been speaking with customers affected by the problems on the Vodafone network and had been monitoring the telco's interactions with customers on Twitter.

"This problem has been known publicly for at least six weeks. We have had moments at which Vodafone has made some public statements about problems on the network, but what we continue to see is poor advice going to customers and in some cases outright wrong advice about problems with the network," she told ZDNet Australia.

Freeman said the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) was the best place for customers to go to if they're being given the run around by their telco.

"Customers are entitled to remedies including release from contracts or some form of reimbursement if the service isn't operating correctly. But really it's about customers demanding respect from their providers," she said. "People are usually pretty good at understanding that problems do happen from time to time but they do want to know they're being given timely and accurate information about those problems."

"These sorts of denials and inconsistent advice about coverage issues do undermine the relationship telcos have with their customers and do a disservice to the industry as a whole," she added.

The TIO told ZDNet Australia that it could not comment on issues with specific service providers.

In Vodafone's submission to the Australian Communications and Media Authority's recent customer service discussion paper, the company said it had over 1.535 million customers using 3G services as of 30 June 2010. The company claimed in its submission that a peak of complaints from customers around the time of the release of the iPhone 4 was due to customers seeking to get a free mobile handset upgrade to the iPhone 4.

In a statement provided to ZDNet Australia, Vodafone said the 3G network connectivity issues had been mostly resolved.

"We did identify some issues that intermittently affected voice and data services for some customers. Our engineers have been working to restore full network services and rectified most of these issues last weekend and the network is now back in a steady state," the telco said.

This week Vodafone Hutchison Australia won the Mobile Service Provider of the Year award at the 2010 Frost & Sullivan Australia Best Practices Awards.

Topic: Telcos


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Thanks for the info, they were saying it was because of my old iphone 3g and I had to buy a new phone.
    I think I'll just change phone companies instead.
  • Same thing is happening in NZ. Shocking 3G Speeds. I was in Auckland CBD, and the Vodafone NZ 3G Network was almost like Dialup.
  • It has made my mobile USB useless - metro Melbourne or Sydney. Makes a bit of a joke of "Mobile Service Provider of the Year" - who decided that - not a customer I bet! Good job we have choices elsewhere.
  • I have had mine since August and the issues from VFA have been blamed on my iphone 4. I can't get reception in most parts of Sydney. I also discovered this week that the reason I cant send emails using the VFA smpt server is that VFA have been in an intercarrier dispute since July. My standard response to people who complain about the service with VFA is that their deals are so good as there is no way you could use your phone to use up all the included calls! It's beyond a joke.
  • Completely sick of Vodafone, ive been a Vodafone customer for nearly 12 years now and it has been excellent up until about a year ago... Since then i have approximately 3 to 4 hours EVERY day where i cant make a single phone call or send a single text. But when i try to call Vodafone to complain, i get told the queue is nearly 2 hours long!!! How can a telco operate a business from this? I also sent them an email venting my outrage last week and was told that if i enter my customer support PIN i would receive priority assistance. I sent this email last Wednesday! so far 1 week later isnt priority service!

  • yesterday, a speedtest reported my download speed at 10kbps. seriously!
    today the upload is 0kbps.
    Sydney CBD.
    if only it was a joke.
    Vf Mumbai call centre claim my phone is faulty. yet I get >5500kbps with a Telstra sim.
    TIO will be busy.
  • Im getting timeouts in speed test in surfers paradise :'(
  • Vodafone's poor service and reception has been well known for years. It's hard to feel much sorrow for anyone who signs with them.
  • Well it was better than 3 Mobiles service, but i guess that now vodafone and 3 ave merged we are starting to see the 3 'quality' service infect vodafone.... (*sigh*)

    Time to look for a new carrier maybe, hmm,
    Ok, so i've been on:
    Optus/Virgin - shocking coverage
    3 - crap service and half the phone centre staff don't speak english
    Telstra - Never tell the truth.
    and now Vodafone, getting dropped and missed calls all the time.

    is there ANYONE else?
    ANYONE that might give good service or is the mobile business just a terminal case?
    maybe i should just give the whole mobile phone game away, i'd certainly reduce my radiation exposure.
  • Personally i think the problem is demand. 10 years ago there wasnt enough demand for Mobile phones and the Telco had to care about the customer for the customer to want to sign up to a mobile plan.

    These days mobiles are more of a necessity which unfortunately means that the Telco doesnt feel the need to care. Its a crappy thing but its how most businesses run these days *sigh*
  • All I can say is roll on, NBN! Once fibre takes the bulky data use for 93% of us (i.e. all cities and large towns), and 97% of us have a committed minimum 12 Mbps bandwidth wireless signal, it will be a different ballgame, and may the best retail service providers win!
  • Disgusted with VF reception in Sydney CBD & Darling Harbour ... where is the best place to log a complaint ? On ZDNet, Whirpool or by calling VF direct ?
  • There is a reason why some Telco's are more expensive than others.
  • I just signed up on the weekend. It seems a little flaky from time to time but it's significantly better than Optus. I'm happy enough.
  • These c**kheads charged me an additional $200 in excess usage because my internet security kept repeatedly getting timed out at the ZoneAlarm server after downloading 64% of 120Mb. The updater kept trying but 3Mobile was too slow for the whole updates to successfully come down to my PC, and yes, I did go into excess - but only and directly because the 3Mobile was constantly f**cked. Some days I couldn't even get an internet connection !
    3Mobile constantly lied about the problems they were having - said their network was functioning perfectly. I hated having to try to decipher the heavy accents of the people working in their offshore call centre(s), and I hate their corporate dishonesty. 3Mobile must be the worst ISP operating in Australia - even worse than Telstra, whose lack of competitiveness first inspired me to join 3.
  • It's been several months of denial by Vodafone.

    Even after now being picked up by the media for a second time, there has still been no formal advice to customers on the Network Status page of Vodafones Website.

    Up until a few days ago at least, customers were still being told in the offical VF twitter support forum, that there were "No known outages".

    It's Customer Service at it's worst
  • I was in Melbourne this week and could not use my iPhone. I had no way of checking emails, banking or anything while in Melbourne. I've been a Vodafone customer for almost 10 years now but if I wasn't under a contract I would have walked into another carriers dealer and ported my number across to them. I'm now counting down the days for when my contract ends and I will be moving my business elsewhere.

    Vodafone have not done a thing for many years with their network coverage in country areas. You can't even drive from Melbourne to Mildura or Swan Hill and have Vodafone coverage. The other two networks you can travel into these areas and have coverage. I have written many a letter to Vodafone about this very issue and was told that one of the biggest reasons Vodafone loses customers is because of network coverage in the country. So their answer to that was to spend millions of dollars on their network in the cities and do nothing in the country. I live in outback NSW and yes we have Vodafone coverage but only because we're on the main highway between Sydney and Adelaide. I was so happy to be back home from Melbourne because I was going to have 3G data working again.

    I can not believe in this day and age carriers would let their networks go down hill like Vodafone has. This is the second time I've heard of Vodafone having data issues. You would think they would have learnt from the first time.

    Vodafone needs to get off their backsides and improve their network before they have no customers to have a working network.

    One good thing about Vodafone is I've never had a problem that wasn't fixed up quickly. They have been great in times when you couldn't pay your account on time and would give you time to pay. Those type of things make Vodafone good to deal with but that's starting to wear very thin.
  • If you all are having such a hard time (im in tassie so im not affected) have you contacted Vodafone on Twitter as the article says the team have kept people updated and have been assisting customers... I hate contacting my service provider over the phone so twitter and facebook have become a great means to do it

    Just a suggestion
  • I dont understand why a higher power such as the ACCC or the TIO hasn't taken appropriate action against VHA. Someone should step in and stop VHA from treating its customers like this, or at the bare minimum stop allowing VHA to sign new customers until ALL issues are completely resolved.

    I dont think online forums, VHA customer support, TIO etc are the best way to go. Whats stopping more people from taking this to the TV, get it on the news and maybe VHA will actually notice that hey.... PEOPLE ARE ANGRY!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • As I said above try them on twitter, cant avoid you in a very public space